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Delegates Point to Heightened Violence against Women, Curbing Their Access to Sexual and Reproductive Rights, as Third Committee Discusses Advancement of Women

Summary

Attempts to control what women and girls say, think and wear as well as to deny women access to sexual and reproductive rights are on the rise, the Third Committee (Social, Humanitarian and Cultural) heard today, as it commenced its […]

Attempts to control what women and girls say, think and wear as well as to deny women access to sexual and reproductive rights are on the rise, the Third Committee (Social, Humanitarian and Cultural) heard today, as it commenced its debate on the advancement of women.
In opening remarks, Åsa Regnér, Deputy Executive Director for Policy, Programme, Civil Society and Intergovernmental Support, United Nations Entity for Gender Equality and the Empowerment of Women (UN Women), highlighted impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic, the urgency of climate change and the rise of violent conflicts. Warning against alarmingly high rates of violence against women and girls, she noted that over 380 million women and girls globally were in extreme poverty, living on less than $1.90 a day. It may take another 286 years to remove discriminatory laws and close gaps in legal protections for women and girls, she said.
Turning the Secretary-General’s reports, she underscored the urgency of addressing women and girls in digital contexts, adding that 38 per cent of women globally have experienced violence in digital space. Moreover, women and girls make up 92 per cent of the victims of trafficking for the purposes of sexual exploitation, which was the most detected form of trafficking in 2020. Despite a decline in prevalence of female genital mutilation worldwide, she warned that the displacement of women and girls caused by climate change and conflicts could increase the likelihood of undergoing such harmful practices.
In the ensuing interactive dialogue, delegates focused on conflict-related sexual violence and mechanisms for improving accountability and supporting survivors, with Latvia’s delegate voicing concern over Moscow’s war against Ukraine that had been inflicting suffering on women and girls. Echoing his concerns, the observer for the European Union pointed to sexual and gender-based violence resulting from Moscow’s aggression against Ukraine.
Along similar lines, the representative of China, highlighting the link between climate change and violence against women, stressed the importance of the principle of common but differentiated responsibilities through financial aid and technical assistance to developing countries to cope with climate change.
Also today, the Special Rapporteur on violence against women and girls, Reem Alsalem, drawing attention to countries most affected by environmental degradation, said the impact of climate change aggravated all types of gender-based violence against women and girls. In the aftermath of natural disasters, the risks of physical violence were particularly pronounced, mainly for those who were displaced or in emergency shelters, she emphasized.
The loss of livelihoods and limited resources tied to the aftereffects of large-scale natural disasters or slow onset environmental degradation forced women and girls in different parts of the world into sexual exploitation in exchange for food and natural resources, including water or fuel, she said. Moreover, water scarcity from droughts pushed women and girls to travel longer distances into unfamiliar areas or without usually available safeguards, such as travelling in a group or during daylight.
Also briefing the Committee were Diene Keita, Deputy Executive Director of the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA); Gladys Acosta Vargas, Chairperson of the Committee on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW); and Dorothy Estrada-Tanck, Chairperson of the Working Group on discrimination against women and girls.
Turning to their general debate, delegates recognized the role of women as the driving force of social development, with many expressing concerns that challenges women and girls faced had been amplified by the COVID-19 pandemic, climate change, and conflict.
“Where women and girls are unable to reach their potential, whole countries suffer,” said the representative of the United Kingdom. Stressing that women and girls continued to be disproportionately impacted by crises, he noted that an estimated 20 million girls would never return to school due of COVID-19. He also warned against increasing authoritarianism that is undermining democratic values and human rights, voicing concern over the situation in Ukraine, Iran, and Afghanistan.
The representative of Nigeria, speaking on behalf of the African group, detailed challenges in eliminating violence against women and girls on the African continent. Harmful practices such as child marriage and female genital mutilation prevented girls from full enjoyment of their human rights, he cautioned, describing female genital mutilation as a serious threat to women and girls, including their sexual, reproductive, and psychological health.
Along similar lines, the representative of Colombia highlighted the role of indigenous and Afro-descendant women as key agents in combatting food insecurity and poverty as well as transforming the rural environment. Calling for a “gender-transformative approach”, she drew attention to her government’s feminist foreign policy that would tackle the root causes of gender inequality in the country.
Also speaking were representatives of Pakistan (on behalf of the “Group of 77” developing countries and China), Bahamas (on behalf of the Caribbean Community), Thailand (on behalf of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations), Dominican Republic (on behalf of the Central American Integration System), Switzerland, Russian Federation, Kenya, Lichtenstein, South Africa, Singapore, China, Finland, Namibia, Philippines, India, Cameroon, Panama, Lebanon, Ireland, Iran, Netherlands, Honduras, Cuba, Canada, Malaysia, Thailand, Armenia, Senegal, Lao People’s Democratic Republic and Viet Nam. The observers for the European Union and Holy See as well as the youth delegate of Mexico also spoke.
The representative of Iran spoke in exercise of the right of reply.
The Committee will reconvene at 10 a.m. on Thursday, 6 October, to continue its general debate.
Briefings and Interactive Dialogues
ÅSA REGNÉR, Deputy Executive Director of the United Nations Entity for Gender Equality and the Empowerment of Women (UN Women), pointing to ongoing impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic, the urgency of climate change and the rise of violent conflicts, warned against alarmingly high rates of violence against women and girls. Global health, humanitarian and climate challenges exacerbated the drivers of such violence, including poverty, economic insecurity, and displacement, she said, noting that the vulnerability of women and girls to different forms of violence, in public, private and online, had intensified. Moreover, these challenges were unfolding against the backdrop of a global backlash on gender equality and women’s rights, particularly women’s sexual and reproductive health and rights, she added. Highlighting that globally, over 380 million women and girls are in extreme poverty, living on less than $1.90 a day and women’s representation in positions of power and decision-making remains below parity, she said it may take another 286 years to remove discriminatory laws and close gaps in legal protections for women and girls.
Introducing the Secretary-General’s reports on efforts to eliminate all forms of violence against women and girls, female genital mutilation and trafficking in women and girls (documents A/77/302, A/77/292 and A/77/312), she highlighted the urgency of addressing women and girls in digital contexts. She pointed to one global study that found that at least 38 per cent of women globally have experienced violence in digital spaces and 85 per cent of women online have witnessed violence in digital contexts. Similarly, humanitarian and other emergency contexts had amplified the vulnerabilities to trafficking and harmful practices such as female genital mutilation that women and girls already faced, placing them at greater risk of experiencing these forms of violence. Moreover, women and girls made up 92 per cent of the victims of trafficking for the purposes of sexual exploitation, which was the most detected form of trafficking in 2020, she said. Despite a decline in the prevalence of female genital mutilation globally, she warned that the displacement of women and girls caused by climate change and conflicts could increase the likelihood of undergoing such harmful practices.
During the ensuing interactive dialogue, the representative of Latvia asked Ms. Regnér about her work in other regions of the world, specifically Ukraine. Since 2014, Moscow’s war against Ukraine had been inflicting suffering on civilians and human rights of women and girls were being violated, he observed, noting that UN Women has a country office in Ukraine since 2015. He asked Ms. Regnér to elaborate on the cooperation with the government and civil society in Ukraine to help women and girls.
Echoing his concerns, the representative of Norway, stressing that women journalists, politicians, and human rights defenders were highly exposed to digital violence, underscored the need for enforced media freedom and the safety of women journalists and human rights activists online. He proceeded to ask Ms. Regnér about the role of the UN Women in ensuring that women could exercise their right to freedom of expression.
The representative of the United Kingdom, regarding preventing conflict-related sexual violence, improving justice and accountability and understanding ways to better support survivors, asked how Member states could work together to prevent the roll-back of commitments towards women.
The representative of Chile, drawing attention to indigenous women who were the backbone of their communities, stressed the importance of developing childcare facilities to help women participate in the workforce.
Along similar lines, the representative of China, highlighting the link between climate change and violence against women, called for gender awareness in incorporating the special needs of women in post-pandemic recovery. He stressed the importance of the principle of common but differentiated responsibilities through financial aid and technical assistance to enhance the capacity of developing countries to cope with climate change.
Meanwhile, the representative of Syria, cautioning against disinformation and stigmatization, recalled the Secretary-General’s report on women and girls and its observation that one out of three women were exposed to sexual violence during their lives. “That is a third of women throughout the world,” he said, asking the briefer to confirm this figure.
The observer for the European Union, voicing concern over the situation in Iran and Afghanistan and noting that conflict is a risk multiplier for human trafficking, pointed to sexual and gender-based violence resulting from the Russian aggression against Ukraine, as reported by civil society organizations. She proceeded to ask about ways to address gender inequalities that create socioeconomic vulnerabilities for women and girls, and ways to decrease the risk of human trafficking, especially during conflicts, while ensuring that perpetrators are held accountable.
Also speaking were representatives of Mexico, United States and Malaysia.
In response, Ms. Regnér commented on the consequences of the Russian invasion of Ukraine for women and girls and elaborated on the role of organizations in the conflict. These included experts inquiring about war crimes, working closely with the Ukrainian government, private sector and civil society, and supporting those on the humanitarian frontline. On supporting women activists in war and conflict zones, she stressed that Member States prioritize funding to women’s organizations. Turning to human trafficking, she said the majority of those who buy women were men who lived in peaceful countries outside of conflict zones. This issue needed to be changed, she said, noting that the next session of the Commission on the Status of Women would help clarify the link between trafficking and what happened online later.
DIENE KEITA, Deputy Executive Director of the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA), noted that obstetric fistula was one of the most serious injuries that could occur during childbirth, leaving a hole between the birth canal and the bladder and/or rectum. Caused by prolonged obstructed labour without timely medical intervention, it increased risk of death for both the mother and baby and could lead to lifelong complications, including but not limited to social and psychological consequences, urinary incontinence, infections and infertility, she said. Adding that half a million women and girls worldwide currently lived with this condition, she said that those most affected were the poorest and most marginalized women in society. Recalling her experiences in the field, she cited examples of women who had suffered from obstetric fistula, including a 67-year-old woman in Afghanistan who lived confined to a room, washing her soaked mattress constantly and collecting plastic bags to use as diapers. The woman had surgery at a UNFPA-supported hospital and was able to play with her grandchildren and practice her faith freely for the first time. Despite challenges posed by the COVID-19 pandemic and climate change, fistula was preventable, she said, and could be ended by 2030 if the international community ensured that all women and girls had access to quality maternal, sexual and reproductive health care services. Adding that child marriage and early pregnancy put girls at risk of contracting fistula, she said community empowerment and participation must be encouraged, and access to medical care to repair fistula prioritized.
During the ensuing dialogue, the representative of Norway praised the UNFPA’s work and report. She said that protecting and promoting sexual and reproductive rights were necessary for the health of all people and assured Ms. Keita of Norway’s commitment to the agency’s work.
The representative of Mexico noted that autonomy was part of the Generation Equality Forum’s position emphasizing access to reproductive health as well as education and integrated specialized services that considered the psychosocial health of sexual assault survivors. Gender-based violence was a global phenomenon which also included misogynistic acts, she said, asking for the UNFPA’s opinion on a ”fund” to systematize data in improving support for survivors of sexual assault.
The representative of the United Kingdom underlined the country’s commitment to ending gender-based violence and the importance of access to safe abortion. He asked Ms. Keita how Member States could improve health services and protect sex and reproductive rights for all.
The representative of Columbia commended the UNFPA’s report, underscoring the importance of its work.
Responding to questions, Ms. KEITA highlighted her agency’s work with other United Nations bodies such as UN-Women, United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), and United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO). Underscoring that all issues affecting women were interrelated, she suggested that the international community ensured that the UNFPA received voluntary contributions and convinced other countries that the focus on women and girls was necessary.
GLADYS ACOSTA VARGAS, Chairperson of the Committee on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women, said the Committee had recognized in recent evaluations the legislative, budgetary or other measures taken by States parties to implement its recommendations in national mechanisms for the advancement of women, gender-based violence, laws on personal status, political representation, and the protection of victims of armed conflict. Over the last year, the Committee had acted on 11 individual complaints, finding gender-based violence, discrimination against a female lesbian activist and discrimination against a survivor of rape, among other violations. Further, she pointed to 38 General Recommendations produced by the Committee since its creation, noting that the next one would be on the rights of indigenous women and girls. Adding that armed conflicts in different parts of the world were negatively affecting the human rights of women, their families, communities and societies, she called on States to prevent and protect women from violence. Regarding peace negotiations, she said the Committee was closely following ongoing armed conflicts and using its procedure to highlight concerns about violations of women’s rights. In February, it created a working group to oversee the situation of Ukrainian women and girls and collaborate with national and international bodies. In November 2021, the Committee created a working group on Afghanistan and asked the Afghan Minister of Foreign Affairs to present a special report about women and girls. She underscored that this was the first interaction of a human rights treaty body with the Afghan authorities.
During the ensuing interactive dialogue, delegates discussed the challenges faced by women and girls in the enjoyment of their rights and freedoms, including those related to sexual and reproductive health and inclusion in policy making. The representative of Spain asked about repercussions of the situation in Afghanistan on the rights of women and girls. Stressing the need to update General Recommendation number 18 on discrimination against women with disabilities in line with international standards on human rights, she noted that one in five women worldwide lived with some kind of disability.
The representative of Japan asked how the interaction between CEDAW and the Third Committee could be improved and also about recommended measures to reduce the gender pay gap. She mentioned a revised law in Japan, making such a reduction mandatory for companies with 301 or more employees.
The representative of Germany noted that CEDAW was under renewed attack and invited States that hadn’t done so to accede to the Convention and its protocols. She pointed to the stigma on sexual and reproduction rights, which lead to lack of information and limited full bodily autonomy.
The representative of Mexico, emphasizing that safeguarding the rights of indigenous women and girls was a priority in his country, noted the barriers they faced in enjoying their freedom. She asked how public policy could guarantee access to justice for indigenous women and girls.
An observer for the European Union, calling on States to accede to the CEDAW convention and its protocols, spotlighted the situation of Iranian women who were fighting for their ability to assemble and protest. Condemning the use of violence against women, she urged Iran to investigate the death of Mahsa Amini. Reiterating her bloc’s commitment to the protection of all human rights, she said these should be accessed without discrimination and related information and services provided. She asked what conclusion CEDAW had drawn from the reports of States under review in terms of priority actions to achieve gender equality and respond to the pandemic. Further, she asked about the General Recommendation on the rights of indigenous populations.
Responding to the questions, Ms. VARGA said the Committee must work more on the rights of women with disabilities and that the General Recommendations on this topic must be updated. On the gender pay gap, she highlighted that this part of CEDAW’s mission must be addressed both in the developing and developed countries. As the safeguard of sexual reproductive rights is part of the Committee’s mandate, she noted that the right of abortion had been withdrawn in same places. On advancing the rights of indigenous women and girls, she said they should not have to ensure justice is provided for them by Governments. Rather, Governments should ensure justice is provided for them. Pointing to the Istanbul convention, she emphasized that regional bodies and regional conventions are the best form of support for international decisions. In conclusion, she reaffirmed the importance of achieving gender equality in real terms, not just in legal frameworks.
Also speaking in the dialogue were representatives of Malaysia, Chile and Portugal.
DOROTHY ESTRADA-TANCK, Chairperson of the Working Group on discrimination against women and girls, stressed that the rise of authoritarian, nationalist and fundamentalist actors worldwide had led to disastrous consequences for human rights, especially those related to gender equality, sexual and reproductive health and education for girls. A central aspect of a broader anti-rights agenda, this backlash was intertwined with other alarming anti-democratic trends aimed at shutting down dissent and civic space. The Working Group’s latest report to the Human Rights Council on Girls’ and young women’s activism details female activism and related barriers. Children and young people are confronted with adult-centric and paternalistic attitudes, and girls face additional challenges, as priority is given to their sons’ education and empowerment. She further noted that parental authority and overprotective approaches limited the freedom and space of engagement of children and young people and that the perception of young activists as challenging established gender norms might lead to aggression. Other barriers to female activism include early and forced marriages, forced pregnancies, female genital mutilation and other forms of violence. Digital technologies could be used to blackmail, control, surveil, coerce, harass, humiliate or objectify girl and young women activists, she said. Online attacks were often orchestrated against them with the aim of discrediting, delegitimizing and defaming them. She stressed the need to foster mental health care and address legal barriers to the exercise of their right to freedom of assembly. Noting that globally, women’s organizations and programming were disproportionately underfunded, she called on States to respect activism, remove barriers and facilitate collaboration and solidarity within and across movements, organizations and generations.
In the ensuing interactive dialogue, the representative of Costa Rica deplored crimes that disproportionately affected women and girls and voiced concern over exacerbation of verbal and sexual or political violence against health workers. Indigenous women, women in poverty, elderly women and displaced women continued to be the most affected, he said, inquiring how the United Nations system, in collaboration with the private sector, could support the creation of a safe digital environment.
The representative of Malaysia, stressing the importance of blocking pornographic websites, including child pornography, and encouraging the utilization of parental tools in children’s mobile devices, called for new legislation to ensure the safety of women and girls in online space. He asked Ms. Estrada-Tanck how international organizations could support governmental efforts towards the digital threat.
Echoing his concerns, the representative of the United States asked about ways Member States could further the efforts of the Working Group to end discrimination against women and girls.
The representative of Mexico, calling for the active participation of women in decisions that affected them, stressed the importance of eliminating attitudes that cause discrimination against women, and advocated for the increased leadership of women and girls.
The observer for the European Union inquired how Member States could create access and meaningful connections between decision makers and women human rights defenders.
The representative of Syria, pointing to the tragic situation of the people in illegal prisons in the northeast of Syria, underscored that some countries refused to repatriate their citizens, using various excuses. He asked Ms. Estrada-Tanck whether she considered this refusal to repatriate discrimination against women and girls.
Also speaking were representatives of Belgium and the United Kingdom.
Responding, Ms. ESTRADA-TANCK called for a multi-layered dialogue in creating an enabling environment to protect people from harmful digital content and promote the activism of girls. States must be able to implement and ensure compliance of digital corporations with human rights standards, including gender equality, she asserted. She further acknowledged that girls and young women activists sometimes distrusted local, national, and international institutions, including the United Nations. On the ways Member States can aid efforts of the Working Group, she highlighted the need to ratify all relevant human rights conventions, including the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women, and implement cross-cutting measures and legal frameworks to achieve substantive equality. Calling for the decriminalisation of abortion and access to sexual and reproductive health, rights, goods and services, she said it was essential for girls and women to know about their rights and exercise activism.
REEM ALSALEM, Special Rapporteur on violence against women and girls, cited the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s (IPCC) assessment that climate change acted as a threat multiplier and its impacts were felt more severely by those who were already marginalized, due to pre-existing inequalities and discrimination. Pointing to this, she said “the impact of climate change is undeniably gendered and therefore experienced differently”. All aspects of lives of women and girls were significantly impacted by climate change as it, too, aggravated all types of gender-based violence against women and girls.
Detailing the increased burden women and girls faced following natural disasters, she said those who were displaced or in emergency shelters were subjected to environments where law and order had broken down. In such situations, both the loss of livelihood and limited resources could force women and girls into sexual exploitation in exchange for food and other basic needs. Water scarcity from droughts forced them to travel long distances to unfamiliar places without usual safeguards. Sexual violence was common when farmers, landowners and other authorities coerced women and girls into “transactional sex” for essential items, she said. Other risks included trafficking, family separation, and orphaning. While physical violence was the most tangible form of violence women and girls experienced, psychological and other forms of violence were also well documented, she said, adding that “slow-onset climate events” could manifest as domestic or intimate-partner violence.
During the ensuing discussion, the representative of the Russian Federation said the Special Rapporteur’s proposals were based on a “dubious concept,” stressing that while women and girls must be considered, they could not “play a central role” in climate change.
The representative of Australia outlined the country’s Second National plan and the establishment of the Domestic Family and Sexual Violence Commission, which provided 10 days of leave for sexual violence survivors, expressing support for an intersectional approach to putting women and girls at the centre of policymaking.
The representative of Mexico asked how coherence between all human rights mandates that focus on climate change could be achieved.
The representative of Lebanon expressed concern over the increase in horrific cases of femicide due to women and girls refusing either sex or marriage, and asked if the Special Rapporteur could speak about the cause of it.
The representative from Estonia, speaking on behalf of the Nordic and Baltic countries and aligning with the observer for the European Union, asked how States incorporated a gender-perspective into their climate change policy and how to ensure that the multiple impacts of climate change on women and girls were more effectively covered.
The representative of Slovenia, also aligning with the observer for the European Union, said displaced women were particularly vulnerable to conflict-specific violence, asking the Special Rapporteur to elaborate on her recommendation to strengthen understanding on the nexus of violence against women, conflict and climate change.
The representative of Lichtenstein expressed concern about the heightened risk of trafficking, asking what Governments could do to reduce it during climate disasters.
The representative of Pakistan asked how to support women and girls in occupied territories such as Kashmir and Palestine.
The representative of India said he rejected the malicious statements made by Pakistan about Kashmir.
The observer for the European Union stressed that climate change was a human rights crisis and that its effects were disproportionally felt by women and girls. He reaffirmed the human right to a clean, healthy and sustainable environment and said his question was similar to Slovenia’s.
Responding, Ms. ALSALEM said that data already collected as well as anecdotal evidence proved that the nexus between gendered violence and climate change exists. Further, she said that the data “is just the tip of the iceberg”. Emphasizing that women constituted 50 per cent of the global population, she said they must be at the centre, adding that human rights frameworks state they must not be discriminated against based on gender identity or sexual orientation. She stressed that States must adopt a serious approach to mainstreaming a response to the climate crisis with women and girls in mind.
She expressed concern that many legislative frameworks protecting women’s rights were deteriorating, condemning States that “take a backseat”, while they should be active in finding solutions. Pointing out that 80 per cent of people displaced by conflict are women, she suggested that States offer resettlement opportunities and refugee visas. Turning to femicide, she said that these acts of violence occur due to impunity for perpetrators, questioning whether there had indeed been an upsurge or if the topic was reported on more. Finally, she promoted an all-society approach in addressing the intersections between climate change and violence against women and girls, stressing that it is the responsibility of Governments and private actors to work together with other stakeholders.
Statements
MOHAMMAD AAMIR KHAN (Pakistan), speaking on behalf of the “Group of 77” developing countries and China, stressed that violence against women and girls continued to be a major obstacle to achievement of gender equality and empowerment, encouraging actions to prevent and eliminate all gender-based violence and discrimination. He also underscored the vulnerability of women and girls in countries affected by armed conflict or living under and foreign occupation. An environment that maintains world peace and protects human rights, democracy and the peaceful settlement of disputes was an important factor for the advancement of women. States must use all appropriate means to respect and promote the human rights of women and girls, he said, adding that women’s access to all resources needed for exercising their rights must be improved.
TIJJANI MUHAMMAD BANDE (Nigeria), speaking on behalf of the African group and aligning himself with the Group of 77 and China, stressed that the empowerment of women was directly linked to the achievement of internationally agreed development policies. Detailing challenges in eliminating violence against women and girls on the African continent, he said these included the ongoing impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, growing climate change and conflicts worldwide, resulting in the rise in inflation and food prices, economic insecurity, displacement and discrimination. Violence against women in digital contexts escalated in the shadows of the pandemic and increased the risk of trafficking of women and girls. Turning to child marriage and female genital mutilation, he said such harmful practices prevented girls from full enjoyment of their human rights, dignity, health, and well-being. He outlined the risks of early childbearing, including maternal mortality and disability. In the light of climate change and the ongoing pandemic, ensuring that all women had access to high quality health care required substantial financial support. He added that female genital mutilation was a serious threat to women and girls, including their sexual, reproductive, and psychological health, which could include their vulnerability to HIV, resulting in fatal consequences both for the mother and new-born child.
HANNE CARLÉ, speaking as an observer for the European Union, noted that women still made up only 26 per cent of parliamentarians globally. Gender stereotypes and negative social norms, coupled with structural inequalities, contributed to the exclusion of women from economic, social and political life. She also noted that sexual and gender-based violence, both offline and online, in peacetime and in crisis and conflict, were major violations of human rights. As women activists, peacebuilders, human rights defenders and their families were often at risk of intimidation and harassment, she said their safety must be a priority. While digital space and technologies could foster participation, risks connected with their use also needed to be considered and addressed. Standing with all women and girls affected by war and conflict, from Afghanistan to Ethiopia, from Ukraine to Myanmar, she called on Member States to strengthen their protection from conflict-related sexual and gender-based violence, trafficking and harassment, and to combat impunity. She also supported Iranians exercising their fundamental right to assemble and protest, following Mahsa Amini’s abuse and death.
STAN ODUMA SMITH (Bahamas), speaking on behalf of the Caribbean Community (CARICOM), and aligning himself with the Group of 77 and China, expressed pride in the region’s achievements in promoting gender equality . Reaffirming the bloc’s commitment to the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action, he noted that many of the world’s poorest people were women. Mounting crises related to climate change, conflict and the COVID-19 pandemic were increasing the number of women and girls in vulnerable situations, he said, adding that the eradication of poverty was central to reducing the vulnerability of women and girls to climate change.
Emphasizing the importance of quality education, he pointed out that in many places in his region, girls were outnumbering boys in school attendance and tertiary education attainment. Expressing concern about the prevalence of violence against women as well as increasing digital violence and harassment, he said the Governments of the region had worked consistently to eliminate such violence and provided social safety services.
SURIYA CHINDAWONGSE (Thailand), speaking on behalf of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), noted that the COVID-19 pandemic and other global challenges had undermined hard-won development gains. ASEAN had been working to stop the rollbacks, recover lost ground and enhance resilience and preparedness for future shocks, focusing on women and girls. The bloc had recognized its critical role in responding to the pandemic and using rapid and targeted responses to build back better and mitigate its impacts. The ASEAN Commission on the Promotion and Protection of the Rights of Women and Children had been fundamental in ensuring that policies were carried out. To address the expanded gaps in gender inequality and greater risks of violence and discrimination against women and girls, the Commission had helped develop the Regional Plan of Action on the Elimination of Violence against Women and Violence against Children. ASEAN member States had also committed to implementing the ASEAN Declaration on Eliminating Violence against Women. It had been actively working to expand women’s roles in sustaining peace, stability and development, including through the launch of the ASEAN Regional Study on Women, Peace and Security in 2021.
JOAN MARGARITA CEDANO (Dominican Republic), speaking on behalf of the Central American Integration System, said gender inequality negatively impacted all forms of economic and social growth in societies. Countries in the region had made great strides in gender equality through the creation of instruments promoting equality and inclusion, and implementation of international treaties. He further highlighted the bloc’s Regional Policy on Equity and Gender Equality, which strengthened intergovernmental and intersectoral cooperation. Underscoring the group’s commitment to reduce teen pregnancy, he said this causes postponement of a girl’s education and also medical complications. Emphasizing the role played by indigenous women as protectors of cultural values and defenders of land, he reaffirmed the region’s commitment to promoting equity, equality, and the empowerment of women and girls, adding that increased funding from all sources was required to leave no woman or girl behind.
VALÉRIE WAGNER (Switzerland) condemned restrictions on the rights and freedoms of women and girls in Afghanistan. “These are serious violations of human rights, particularly in terms of access to education, freedom of movement and participation in public and political life,” she said. Women made up 42 per cent of the lower house of her country’s Parliament and 26 per cent of the upper house, with underrepresentation also in the cantonal and municipal executives, where rates were around 30 per cent. Stressing that gender-based violence generated high costs and impacted the participation of survivors, she pointed to a national action plan in her country to prevent and combat violence against women as well as domestic violence. She also highlighted her country’s involvement in the Commission on the Status of Women and the protection of women journalists and human rights defenders, including those online. In this regard, she said that her country was supporting a project across the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) region, noting its engagement with the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights.
MAXIM V. BIRYUKOV (Russian Federation), stressing that women constituted 50 per cent of the world’s population, said recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic could not be achieved without them. Adding that the effectiveness of decisions hinged on alignment between the Commission on the Status of Women and the UN—Women executive board, he called on the latter body to stay within its mandate and refrain from “flushing out the substance of decisions taken by bodies on issues related to the rights of women and girls”. He condemned dubious initiatives like the Generation Equality Forum, stressing that it was unacceptable to impose decisions that were at odds with a nation’s obligations. Detailing the Russian Federation’s legislation, he said that the Government had focused on maternity law, bolstered women’s position in the labour market and boosted the quality of health care during pregnancy, delivery and the post-partum period. He hailed the largest and most effective platform for dialogue for women, the Eurasian Women’s Forum, whose fourth session was scheduled to take place in Saint Petersburg in 2024.
Mr. ORINA (Kenya), aligning himself with the Group of 77 and China and the African Group, noted that gender equality and the empowerment of women was crucial in achieving social development. In this context, he pointed to his country’s recent elections, during which women were supported both as voters and candidates. Guaranteeing women’s participation at the legislative level, Kenya had consistently advocated against sexual and gender-based violence and harmful social practices, he said, calling for multisectoral responses. At the national level, the Government of Kenya passed laws to protect young women from sexual and gender-based violence, including laws on improving access to child protection services. At the regional level, Kenya and partner countries had initiated programs aimed at protecting women and girls from female genital mutilation. Civil societies had been instrumental in supporting governmental efforts towards eradicating female genital mutilation, he noted. Describing women’s economic empowerment as an avenue for poverty eradication, he drew attention to a fund established to provide financial support for them. The emergences of COVID-19 brought new challenges to gender equality, he said, calling for a coordinated approach in eliminating sexual and gender-based violence against women and girls.
MYRIAM OEHRI (Liechtenstein), noting that women were often among the most active agents of change, said they routinely faced discriminatory practices that excluded them when legislation was negotiated and adopted. Turning to the women, peace and security agenda, she said that “in the context of an increasingly polarized world with a record number of protracted armed conflicts, gender equality remains a crucial but, unfortunately, often undervalued factor for the restoration and maintenance of international peace and security”. Pointing to the latest statistics, indicating that the number of people living in modern slavery had increased by more than 10 million over the last decade, she noted that about 27 million were women and girls. Traffickers capitalize on existing inequalities, she said, placing women and girls at heightened risk of forced marriage, sexual exploitation, forced labour or domestic servitude. She also pointed to her country’s Finance against Slavery and Trafficking initiative, noting that it had undertaken activities with respect to human trafficking as a result of the massive refugee flows from Ukraine, in the areas of both prevention and financial inclusion of Ukrainians who had fled their country due to the Russian aggression.
Ms. ROMULIS, youth delegate of Mexico, said her country’s national development plan underscored the importance of leaving no one behind, specifically no woman or girl. Noting that she and her fellow youth delegates were from Afro-Mexican, indigenous and migrant communities, she said the fact that they were from groups of women that had been rendered invisible illustrated Mexico’s intersectional feminist foreign policy in action. A further example of progress was the Generation Equality Forum held in Mexico with support from UN—Women, which produced over 2,500 commitments promoting equality. She added that challenges arising from historic and structural inequalities continued to worsen and were rendered more acute by climate change, wars, and food insecurity. Hailing multilateralism as the path to ensure autonomy and access to sexual and reproductive rights for all, she said this included elders and those with disabilities as well as indigenous, Afro-descendent, migrant and refugee women.
XOLISA MFUNDISO MABHONGO (South Africa), aligning himself with the African Group and the Group of 77 and China, cited President Mandela, who said achieving freedom means emancipating women from all form of oppression. Noting that South Africa would host a National Summit on Gender-Based Violence in the coming month, he said this morning South Africa had announced a new bill aimed at created a multi-sectoral and coherent response to gender-based violence and femicide. He emphasized the need for States to ensure girl children’s access to education and women’s access to work as well as control over their lives and bodies. Pointing to the increase in cases of violence in the digital context, he stressed the importance of international cooperation, encouraging a collective and holistic approach. This would mean sharing information and collaboration among Member States, the private sector and civil society. “We cannot allow for perpetrators of violence against women and girls to abuse online spaces”, he said.
Ms. TEO (Singapore), aligning herself the Group of 77 and China and ASEAN, said achieving gender equality and empowering all women and girls remained a distant goal, adding that pressures caused by the COVID-19 pandemic had worsened family violence. As a small island State with no natural resources, the survival and success of Singapore depended on its people, she said, noting that women’s rights were protected under the Constitution and extensive legislation, including the Women’s Charter. Further, all children in Singapore had equal access to a high standard of education, she said, expressing support for girls’ education, especially in the fields of science, technology, engineering, and mathematics. Women in Singapore had made great inroads into male-dominated professions such as medicine, scientific research, and digital entrepreneurship, she noted, pointing also to women’s representation in parliament, which rose to nearly 30 per cent in the last general election. Despite improvements, women still battled stereotypes at workplaces, and shouldered a disproportionate share of domestic responsibilities, she said.
WANG ZIXU (China) called on the international community to use initiatives in post-pandemic recovery as opportunities to encourage greater involvement of women and girls in social affairs, safeguard women’s rights and create new possibilities for women’s participation in public life. In China, he said, the Government would focus on ending violence against women, calling on all countries to build harmonious and inclusive societies free from violence and stereotypes. The country had enhanced its legislation to crack down on discrimination, trafficking, sexual violations and other obstacles to women’s rights, including the emerging threat of sexual violence on social media. Gender equality was an entrenched policy in China, he said, adding that the country had over 100 laws and regulations protecting women’s rights, was ranked in the top ten for maternal health by the World Health Organization (WHO) and had almost closed the gender gap in access to education.
ELINA KALKKU (Finland), aligning herself with the observer of the European Union, noted that digitalization had increased the scale and severity of sexual and gender-based violence, with serious effects on democracy and women’s participation in public life. “Some women, including women human rights defenders, LGBTQI+ persons, indigenous women and women with disabilities, are targeted,” she said, stressing the need to eradicate gender-based violence, offline or online. She called for concrete actions and multi-stakeholder partnerships to fully utilize the potential of technology and innovation for gender equality. Efforts to prevent and eliminate online violence must be increased and law enforcement practices modernized to ensure that digital platforms could truly serve young women and girls, she said. Stressing that full enjoyment of human rights by women and girls was a prerequisite for inclusive societies, she emphasized that “Russia’s unlawful invasion in Ukraine, the worsening situation in Afghanistan and also the latest developments in Iran once again underline the crucial importance of protecting human rights of all persons in the society, and especially women and girls”. In conclusion, she stressed the need to strengthen sexual and reproductive health and rights and their link with other human rights.
NATHALIA SÁNCHEZ GARCÍA (Colombia) underscored the need to empower women in the areas of political participation, representation and education. On the elimination of gender-based violence, she advocated for a differentiated approach to gender in political dialogue and judicial processes. In this context, she highlighted the role of indigenous and Afro-descendant women as key agents in combatting food insecurity and poverty, as they are crucial stakeholders in transforming the countryside and rural environment. Regarding sexual and reproductive rights, she emphasized the role of education and health care systems. Colombia had not blindly adopted a gender-sensitive approach, but went further, she said, calling it a “gender-transformative approach”. To that end, the Colombian government was working on a feminist foreign policy that would tackle the root causes of gender inequality in the country. This policy would go beyond gender equality, having impact on all public policies, including environmental policies and responses to climate emergencies. Further, she pointed to the establishment of the Ministry of Equality that would aim to ensure the empowerment of women, considering all genders, sexual orientations, ethnicities and regional groups in Colombia.
RICHARD CROKER (United Kingdom) pointed to interconnected barriers that were preventing women and girls from reaching their full potential. “Where women and girls are unable to reach their potential, whole countries suffer,” he stressed, adding that achieving gender equality was fundamental to building democracies and accelerating progress on securing freedoms. Women’s knowledge and leadership strengthened decision-making, driving more sustainable and fairer policies that benefited whole communities. He highlighted progress on this agenda, including more girls in school, fewer girls forced into early marriage, more women serving in high political offices and private sector leadership positions. Furthermore, there had been encouraging legal reforms in many countries to address inequalities. However, progress had stalled, he said, adding that it would take 135 years to close the gender gap worldwide. Women and girls continued to be disproportionately impacted by crises, be it the COVID-19 pandemic, conflict, or climate change. Voicing concern over the situation in Ukraine, Iran and Afghanistan, he warned against increasing authoritarianism that was undermining democratic values and human rights.
NEVILLE MELVIN GERTZE (Namibia), highlighting a world where women fell into poverty, were deprived of education and health care and were subjected to violations of human rights, stressed the need to intensify efforts in reversing those trends. Namibia’s arid habitat posed specific challenges, such as relying on rainfall for agriculture, he said, adding that the Government and stakeholders had implemented adaptation efforts in shifting climate circumstances. Turning to the country’s legislation to help women and girls, he cited the Policy on the Prevention and Management of Learner Pregnancy, which increased access and support for teenage mothers. Further, the National Safe Schools Framework addressed health and safety in schools, where life skills teachers received the training to bolster programmes addressing sexual and gender-based violence, underscoring the link between mental health and social development. Listing challenges to progress in the country, such as the lack of infrastructure and digital technology, especially in rural areas, he emphasized that quality education and equal participation were imperative to empower women and girls.
ANTONIO MANUEL REVILLA LAGDAMEO (Philippines), aligning himself with ASEAN and the Group of 77 and China, said his country viewed the advancement of women as vital to the country’s progress. Detailing legislative frameworks, he listed the Magna Carta of Women, which is a comprehensive legal framework for the protection and promotion of gender equality and empowerment of women as well as The Expanded Maternity Leave Law and Safe Spaces Act. He added that the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao in the southern Philippines was the product of a woman-led peace process and inclusive dialogue. He noted that the country maintains a high standing in the Global Gender Gap Index, but added that Filipino women and girls in situations of poverty who are victims of natural disasters are vulnerable to human trafficking and forced labour.
ASHISH SHARMA (India), aligning himself with the Group of 77 and China, said the Constitution of India ensured the participation of women in local self-government by mandating 33 per cent of total seats for them. Moreover, 20 Indian States required a 50 per cent reservation of total seats for women. Beyond political empowerment, he said it was necessary to devise an overall institutional framework to provide women with access to economic opportunities and partnerships. He pointed to national initiatives providing greater access for women to finance, credit, technology and employment. Noting that women in India were studying science, technology, engineering, mathematics and medicine, he said women were holding positions of responsibility in businesses as well as in science and technology. He touched on a series of national initiatives to foster women’s empowerment, ranging from addressing gender stereotypes to increasing access to employment.
NELLY BANAKEN ELEL (Cameroon) said the situation of women remained challenging, with levels of violence remaining high and a gender pay gap that had not budged. She outlined measures taken to curb violence against women in line with the framework provided by the Commission on the Status of Women. While women faced impacts due to many issues, including climate change and conflict, the current approach had gotten mired in controversy around the use of the term gender, while the fate of women remained unchanged. “The state of women is not commendable; what if we are fighting the wrong fight?” she said. She went on to emphasize the need to step up poverty eradication, as poverty was the biggest threat in addressing violence against women and women’s empowerment. More investment was needed for entrepreneurship, training, and education to curb the feminization of poverty and reduce inequalities between men and women.
FLOR KRISTEN FLORES TELLO (Panama), aligning with the Group of 77 and China, detailed numerous advances in the promotion of physical and economic autonomy of women in her country. Panama had the most egalitarian cabinet in history; it had plans for a Ministry of Women; four out of nine magistrates on the Supreme Court were women; and for the first time, an indigenous woman was elected as the chief authority figure in an indigenous region. She added that national mechanisms to promote the rights and security of women included a Committee on Violence against Women, a Government mechanism for the creation of equal opportunities and an advisory council on disabilities. Turning to the country’s Energy Transition Agenda 2030, she said that the road map operated as the nexus between women and energy rights. She said the Government was focused on closing the wage gap and had encouraged entrepreneurship through loans. Underscoring the Country’s role in caring for the large number of migrants passing through its borders, she called for pooled action from countries of origin, transit and destination.
RAWA ZOGHBI (Lebanon) said current data implied that at today’s rate, gaps in gender equality would only be redressed in 300 years, stressing: “This is unacceptable.” More investment was needed in women and girls to reverse the current trend and foster progress, as well as prevent and eliminate all forms of violence against women and girls. She expressed concern over interpersonal violence, which she called a “widespread, pervasive human rights violation”. More must be done to protect women and ensure accountability and justice. Lebanon had stepped up the representation of women, including by enhancing their participation in its armed forces, with women representing 50 per cent of cadets inducted in 2022.
FIONA BRODERICK (Ireland), associating herself with the European Union, said the Special Rapporteur’s report showed how climate change was aggravating violence against women and girls and creating new protection risks. Ireland was addressing the climate crisis through its long-standing commitment to global goals and support for the right to a clean, healthy and sustainable environment. She pointed to the importance of an intersectional approach focusing on groups that were particularly at risk, facing multiple and intersecting forms of discrimination and structural inequalities. This included women human rights defenders, women of diverse sexual orientation and gender identities, older women, women with disabilities and women in poverty. She welcomed the Special Rapporteur’s focus on women and girls’ participation in climate change responses and using a “whole-of-society” approach to ending sexual and gender-based violence. She asked for practical advice, or examples of best practices, to inform this approach.
FATEMEH ARAB BAFRANI (Iran) said women in her country enjoyed the rights to education, own property, vote and work. Pointing to two laws that had been passed concerning mothers and parenthood, she said the first focused on protection for nursing mothers, while the second guaranteed leave for both the father and mother. She added that a bill had been drafted to fight organ trafficking and punish smugglers with a view to protecting women and girls, who were the most vulnerable to this crime. He emphasized that women’s life expectancy had risen to 79 years, adding that nearly 50 per cent of Internet users and higher education graduates were women. Further, more than 50 per cent of journalists and media staff were women, which allowed them to make their points of view known.
ENAAM AHMED ALI (Netherlands) recounted a disturbing sight she saw on Zwara beach in her motherland, Libya – the body of a woman who had been floating for days, head down in the water. The sight symbolized the “inhumanity of the system”, bringing home the fact that 80 per cent of those displaced by climate emergencies in developing economies are women, further evidencing how climate change disproportionally impacted women, she said. Introducing herself as a development economist and tireless advocate for human rights, she said the sight she saw was not unique, and will become less unique as climate change intensifies. Noting that by 2050, between 200 million to 1.2 billion people will be displaced globally and millions of deaths will occur due to climate change, of which the majority will be women, she called on nations to support the resolution her country will co-facilitate with France on violence against women and girls. She urged countries to take more action to protect women from climate-change related displacement through climate action; ensure developing economies are compensated for adverse climate change impacts through the Green Climate Fund; and to take a more holistic notion of development that considers not just growth and money, but all other externalities.
NOEMÍ RUTH ESPINOZA MADRID (Honduras), aligning herself with the Group of 77 and China, stressed that her Government, for the first time in its history, was chaired by a woman. Her Government’s plan was designed to promote gender equality by expediting progress in sexual and reproductive health and rights. She underscored the creation of a State Secretary under the Office of Women’s Affairs and increase of its budget, reflecting the country’s desire to comply with all national and international regulations. Work was also currently underway for the development of the Third Plan for Gender Equality and Justice 2023-2033. She said that it would constitute the normative framework to ensure fulfilment of her country’s commitments on the promotion, protection and guarantee of rights, while considering the demands of women in the different territories. Reiterating her country’s commitment to the eradication of all forms of gender-based violence and the advancement of women, she said it recognized that women were catalysts for changing the world.
YOANGEL VALIDO MARTÍNEZ (Cuba), aligning himself with the Group of 77 and China, said that gender equality and the empowerment of women were goals yet to be reached, emphasizing that they were impeded by underdevelopment, hunger and conflict. Listing successes in his country, he said women in Cuba enjoyed equal access to education, the right to decent employment and protection from discrimination in work and pay. Access to abortion and fertility care were guaranteed under the health-care system, which was universal and free, he said. As for employment, he said women made up 70 per cent of judges and prosecutors, 53 per cent of the science field and 70 per cent of the health sector. Turning to recent legislation, he cited the 2019 New Family Code, which extended the protection of women and ensured gender equality in the family environment. He pointed out that Cuba was a small island State contending with economic blockades imposed over six decades ago, which violated the United Nations Charter and were the main hinderance to Cuba’s development.
ROBERT DAVID MURPHY, an observer for the Holy See, deplored the pervasive, widespread nature of domestic violence, which violated women’s trust, and factors that prevented women from seeking safety and help. Quoting Pope Francis, he called for men as well as women to say no to all forms of violence, adding: “Healthy family formation is key.” He went on to deplore the scourge of human trafficking, which subordinated women, stating that more must be done to combat factors that give rise to it, including poverty, lack of education and family instability, as well as the low accountability and high demand that make the crime so profitable. More must also be done to enhance maternal care, he said, noting that 800 women died daily due to maternal deaths.
CASSANDRA MORIN (Canada) said her country’s domestic efforts on safeguarding human rights remained foundational to its engagement with the United Nations human rights system, representing a critical part of its feminist foreign policy. Noting that intergovernmental collaboration was essential in bolstering the multilateral human rights system’s role in highlighting violations globally, including those against women and girls, she encouraged other States to participate in the international human rights system. In addition, she said that building an equitable future for all women and girls required coordinating efforts, meaningfully engaging various stakeholders, like women’s organizations and indigenous partners. Aware that her country faced challenges in this regard domestically as well, she called on Member States to consolidate gains and prevent rollbacks. “There’s a need to protect human rights standards related to gender equality, including sexual and reproductive health and rights, child, early and forced marriage, sexual and gender-based violence and LGBTQI+ rights”, she said. Condemning the killing of Mahsa Amini, she saluted the Iranian women who were peacefully protesting.
SARAH ZAHIRAH BINTI RUHAMA (Malaysia) said her Government had introduced a policy requiring that 30 per cent of management positions be women. Under the 2022 Federal Budget, publicly listed companies were required to appoint at least one female director. Further legislation included an anti-sexual harassment bill offering protection to both men and women, which would increase security in the labour force. Providing a healthy work environment would promote a greater percentage of women in the workforce, he said. In encouraging women to join and stay in the workforce, he said the Government would enhance access to early childhood care and education services, as well as affordable elderly care. Looking forward, he welcomed Malaysia’s Gender Mainstreaming Framework, which included capacity building programmes and the appointment of “Gender Focal Points” in all ministries. He added that “a lump of soil can amount to a mountain, and a drop of water can amount to an ocean”, expressing hope that the steps taken today would indeed make for a more inclusive society.
NICHAMON MAY HSIEH (Thailand), associating herself with ASEAN and the Group of 77 and China, said challenges women and girls faced had been amplified by the pandemic, climate change, and conflict, adding that much must be done to reverse such trends. She outlined steps taken by Thailand to promote the rights of women, including gender-sensitive education and gender-responsive budgeting. In Thailand, during the pandemic, hundreds of thousands of women village volunteers were helping guard communities from the virus, she added. Further, Thailand was doing much to promote the empowerment of women, she said, noting that women represented 60 per cent of the country’s workforce and around 45 per cent of Chief Executive Officers. In addition, steps were being taken to enhance technological and digital literacy.
TIGRAN GALSTYAN (Armenia) noted that the Armenian Parliament had achieved a record of more than 35 per cent women in its legislature, calling it a major step towards achieving gender equality and empowerment of women in the political sphere. Noting that women’s participation in the Armenian information and communications technology (ICT) sector was 40 per cent — twice as much as the international average — he pledged his country’s support for international efforts aimed at bridging the gender digital divide. He pointed to a newly adopted National Action Plan 2022-2024 promoting the role of women in conflict prevention, peacebuilding and peacemaking and ensuring effective international cooperation. Noting that women and girls continued to be disproportionately affected by conflicts and complex humanitarian emergencies, he said that the obstruction by Azerbaijan of the humanitarian access of the United Nations agencies to Nagorno-Karabakh continued to undermine efforts for long-term response to the needs of the civilian population. He added that acts of aggression of Azerbaijan against the sovereign territory of Armenia since May 2021 had violated the fundamental human rights of women and girls in the eastern and south-eastern regions of Armenia. He underscored the latest large-scale military offensive of Azerbaijan on 13 September. “Abhorrent videos of despicable barbarities towards female military personnel, including sexual assault, violent murder and mutilations were particularly cheered and extensively celebrated over Azerbaijani social networks”, he said.
AMINATA LY DIOP, (Senegal), aligning herself with the Group of 77 and China and the African Group, said the post-pandemic recovery period showed that the poor are increasingly women. Disparities exist in education, training, employment and participation in human life, she added, noting that poverty rates were even higher amongst rural women, who make up a quarter or the world’s population. Stressing that female migrant workers were subjected to unacceptable violence, she called on the international community to respect their contributions to their home and destination countries, irrespective of their migratory status. Detailing the country’s legislation, she said it focused on gender parity for elected and non-elected bodies, a law criminalizing paedophilia, and the National Strategy for Economic Empowerment, which encourages female entrepreneurship.
VILAYLUCK SENEDUANGDETH (Lao People’s Democratic Republic), aligning herself with ASEAN and the Group of 77 and China, said the pandemic had exacerbated socioeconomic challenges faced by women and enhanced the need for social protections. Her country attached great importance to the empowerment of women, and these concerns had been incorporated into the national policy and planning process, including through a national strategy for the advancement of women, mother and child. Welcoming the Secretary-General’s recommendations to promote sustainable social development, she went on to express her appreciation to United Nations partners for support lent to her country in framing its national strategy and plans for the advancement of women.
THOA THI MINH LE (Vietnam), aligning herself with the Group of 77 and China and ASEAN, said “it is imperative that the international community should consider women as the goal, the driver, the subject, and at the same time, the beneficiary of the pursuit of a comprehensive economy, a fair society, and sustainable development”. She called for the incorporation of gender mainstreaming and women’s empowerment into national policies. In addition, she said that gender-sensitive legislation and plans of action to prevent and address violence should be strengthened by intensifying training for policymakers, programme developers, implementers and service providers. Also calling for the enhanced capacity of the female workforce, she stressed the relevance of regional organizations and development partners in supporting Member States to implement global commitments to protect women and girls from violence, discrimination and social exclusion.
Right of Reply
The representative of Iran, in exercise of the right of reply, condemned false accusations made by the European Union and other Member States, stressing that Iran was in full compliance with national commitments. She said that the death of Masha Amini had deeply saddened the nation and that justice and accountability would be assured following an investigation, with the rights of the deceased and the family fully respected. Further, she called the statement made by UN-Women a “prejudgment”, adding that “people in glass houses should not throw stones”. She cited femicide statistics in the United Kingdom and the historic genocide of indigenous people in the Americas, urging those countries to focus on human rights in their own countries. Finally, she called on all Member States to avoid politicizing human rights issues, stating that advocacy for women and girls or any minorities must respect state sovereignty.

Source: United Nations